As a kid in the 1950’s, I could not understand what the Easter bunny, jelly beans and colored eggs had to do with Jesus Christ. Only the Hot Cross buns my mom made at Easter made sense. Each bun had a frosting cross as a symbol of how Christ died. But in our house, even that was confusing because the holiday was joyful, not sad.
We were excited to hear the robins and see the budding crocus and daffodils. We talked about Christ rising from the dead as a new beginning of life. But mostly we loved our traditions. We cheerfully anticipated the surprises that were coming.
I remember lying in bed every year wondering if I would finally get a giant, solid chocolate bunny that I’d dropped hints about. Instead I got a giant, solid dose of traditions that made me feel loved and valued. How could I complain when I had a full basket of hollow chocolates, blue grass, and more jelly beans than I could ever eat, not to mention the doll, cap gun or bow and arrow I’d been wanting?
Our daily routine went into hyper-drive around Easter. With the background music of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” and “Easter Parade,” we shopped for the perfect outfits, gathered our baskets and tried to remember which one belonged to whom. Dying eggs became a contest to see who could dip the most interesting, beautiful or disgusting color combinations. My mom was good at intense pastels—she left eggs in the cup the longest. My dad used drawing sticks to make zigzags and lines, and my sister put stickers on everything. I was good at very pale eggs and my brother combined the colors until he ended up with Army green and brown with highlights of purple. By the time we were through, our fingertips and nails were ghastly colors that wouldn’t wash off no matter what we tried.
Our parents spent hours shopping and preparing the traditional meal of ham, cheesy potatoes, fruit salad, a green vegetable, homemade rolls and a fantastic dessert like pineapple upside down cake. Our jokester dad delighted in hiding the baskets and eggs in the strangest places—the dryer, a sleeping bag, the oven or the laundry chute. The hunt seemed to take forever as lifted every cushion and opened every cupboard. Inevitably, we missed a few eggs. But they always turned up a week or two later when there was a foul smell in an unexpected place.
On Easter Sunday, after we found our eggs and baskets, we went to Church. I felt like a little lady in dainty white gloves and a new dress. Although we wore our best clothes every Sunday, on Easter it was like a fashion show. Beautiful, new pastel dresses and hats dotted the congregation and cameras were clicking outside the Church the minute the meeting was over.
It was the joyful hymns that made me ponder the true meaning of Easter. Though I was young, I felt the significance of those words in my heart when we sang, “Christ the Lord is risen today… Allelu-i-ah” and “He is Risen.” I wanted to know the real meaning of Easter. But I didn’t worry because my parents were building a foundation of love and trust and I knew they would guide me to the answers.